NASA's Heliophysics Gallery

The Sun is a major influence on Earth's weather and climate. The focus of NASA's Sun-Solar System Connection is to understand this relationship from the perspective of the entire system.

You can find out more by visiting the Heliophysics Page, the NASA Living with a Star program, and the Solar-Terrestrial Probe web site.

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Recent Releases

Check out the latest media we have released relating to the Sun. Want to see more? View our full listing of Sun-related material.
  • Riding Along With a NASA Sounding Rocket (2021)
    2021.09.15
    On Sept. 9, 2021, a sounding rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, carrying a copy of the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, or EVE. This flight was used to calibrate the identical version of EVE that has flown in space since 2010 aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Over the years, the space-based EVE has become degraded by intense sunlight, so scientists fly periodic calibration missions to keep EVE’s measurements sharp.
  • Comparing Atomic Oxygen Emission Observed by GOLD with Ionospheric Total Electron Content (TEC)
    2021.08.30
    Here we compare the enhanced ionospheric emission by atomic oxygen (OI at 135.6nm) observed by the GOLD instrument (right panel) with measured total electron content (TEC, Wikipedia) measured through the NAVSTAR GPS system (left panel). The oxygen emission and TEC are both enhanced in two bands known as the Equatorial Ionization Anomaly (EIA) or Appleton anomaly, that straddle Earth's geomagnetic equator. The Appleton anomaly is formed by a process known as the Equatorial Fountain. This visualization illustrates the motion of these bands on a global scale over a time scale of a few hours, a capability not available until the GOLD mission.
  • Operating and Future Science fleet
    2021.08.30
    NASA Science missions circle the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, Mars, and many other destinations within our Solar System, including spacecraft that look out even further into our universe. The Science Fleet depicts the scope of NASA’s activity and how our missions have permeated throughout the solar system.
  • Space Weather Infographics
    2021.08.25
    Multiple infographics illustrating the science and impact of space weather.
  • Plasma Waves
    2021.08.25
    Locator graphic for plasma waves in the magnetosphere
  • Aging (Instruments) in Space
    2021.07.23
    The space environment is harsh not only on humans and other living organisms, but instruments also. Damage from solar energetic particles and cosmic rays can slowly degrade performance of an instrument. Fortunately there are ways to characterize and correct for this degradation. The graphics on this page are based on the tutorial AIApy: Modeling Channel Degradation over Time.
    After almost a year of operations, there is already a suggestion of a change in instrument response. Here we have AIA 304 data with the color table applied to the raw data (above) and the recalibrated data (below).
    Three years later, there is a much more noticeable difference in the calibrated vs. uncalibrated imagery. Another seven years and the difference is really difficult to miss.
  • An EPIC View of the Moon’s Shadow During the June 10 Solar Eclipse
    2021.07.21
    NASA’s EPIC, Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), sits aboard NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite (DSCOVR). EPIC provides high quality, color images of Earth, which are useful for monitoring factors like the planet’s vegetation, cloud height, and ozone. And every once in a while –– most recently, June 10, 2021 –– it has the opportunity to capture a solar eclipse. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is positioned between the Sun and Earth, leading the Moon’s shadow to be projected onto Earth. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon completely blocks the Sun. During an annular solar eclipse, like the one on June 10, the Moon is near its farthest point from Earth and appears smaller than the Sun in the sky. As the two align, the Sun appears as a ring of fire surrounding the dark disk of the Moon. On June 10, viewers in parts of Canada, Greenland, and Russia were treated to a full annular eclipse. People in a handful of other locations, including parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, eastern United States, Alaska, and northern Africa, were able to catch a partial solar eclipse, where only part of the Sun is blocked by the Moon, leaving behind a crescent-shaped piece of Sun. EPIC didn’t have too bad a view, either. You can find more photos and videos from EPIC, including a few lunar photobombs, here.
  • NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson visits Goddard
    2021.06.25
    On June 25, 2021, NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson visited the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This is a compilation of edited B-roll from the employee social, Goddard Hyperwall Theater, and the Integration & Testing facilities tour.
  • Why Does NASA Observe The Sun in Different Colors?
    2021.06.18
    The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, spacecraft was launched on Feb. 11, 2010, and began collecting science data a few months later. With two imaging instruments – the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, which were designed in concert to provide complementary views of the Sun – SDO sees the Sun in more than 10 distinct wavelengths of light, showing solar material at different temperatures. SDO also measures the Sun’s magnetic field and the motion of solar material at its surface, and, using a technique called helioseismology, allows scientists to probe deep into the Sun's interior, where the Sun’s complex magnetic fields sprout from. And with more than a decade of observation under its belt, SDO has provided scientists with hundreds of millions of images of our star.
  • Monster Solar Filament Launch and CME
    2021.06.18
    A large filament of plasma erupted from the Sun in late August 2012. It was a structure that had 'hovered' over the solar surface for some time before finally being launched. Here are two views of the event - a fast version, illustrating more of the before and after configuration, sampled every 15 minutes; and a slow version, focused around the details of the actual eruption.
  • A Big Sunspot from Solar Cycle 24
    2021.06.18
    A leisurely view in the SDO Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) of a very large sunspot group transiting the solar disk in October of 2014. This spot was the visible light component of the active region cataloged as NOAA 12192.
  • Animation of USPS Stamps Featuring NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory
    2021.06.17
    The U.S. Postal Service illuminates the light and warmth of our nearest star by highlighting these stunning images of the Sun on stamps. These images come from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in February 2010 to keep a constant watch on the Sun. The Sun is the only star that humans are able to observe in great detail, making it a vital source of information about the universe. The Solar Dynamics Observatory lets us see the Sun in wavelengths of ultraviolet light that would otherwise be invisible to our eyes. Each black-and-white image is colorized to the bright hues seen here. The stamps highlight different features on the Sun that help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see. Sunspots, coronal holes and coronal loops, for example, can reveal how those magnetic fields dance through the Sun and its atmosphere. Observing plasma blasts and solar flares can help us better understand and mitigate the impact of such eruptions on technology in space. The Sun Science stamps are being issued as Forever stamps, which will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Missions - Operational

  • Heliophysics Fleet Visualizations
    List
    Visualizations of the fleet of NASA's Heliophysics missions as it changes over the years from 2012 to the present.
  • Solar Orbiter
    Gallery
    As the main driver of space weather, it is essential to understand the behavior of the Sun to learn how to better safeguard our planet, space technology and astronauts. Solar Orbiter will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and what drives the constant outflow of solar wind which affects Earth. The spacecraft will observe the Sun's atmosphere up close with high spatial resolution telescopes and compare these observations to measurements taken in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft – together creating a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.
  • Parker Solar Probe
    Gallery
    Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within four million miles of the Sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.
  • Interface to Space (ICON & GOLD)
    Gallery
    The ionosphere is layer of the upper atmosphere (60-1000 km up) where the neutral atoms and molecules of the lower atmosphere transition to the plasma of space.
  • SDO
    Gallery
    The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is a geosynchronous-orbiting satellite designed to help us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth by studying the solar atmosphere. SDO’s goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the dynamic solar activity that drives conditions in near-Earth space, called space weather. SDO observations help us explain where the Sun's energy comes from, how the inside of the Sun works, and how the Sun’s atmosphere stores and releases energy in dramatic eruptions.

    Every twelve seconds, SDO images the Sun in ten wavelengths of ultraviolet light. Each wavelength reveals different solar features and is assigned a unique color. Every image is eight times the resolution of HD video. From dark coronal holes or bright active regions on the solar surface to immense eruptions and flares that lash out millions of miles above the surface, SDO looks far into the Sun’s blazing atmosphere.

  • THEMIS
    Gallery
    THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) was launched in 2007 as five identical satellites for measuring the magnetic and plasma environment around Earth. After completing their prime mission, two THEMIS satellites were maneuvered into orbit around the Moon to study the lunar enviroment in a mission known as THEMIS-ARTEMIS.

Missions - Historical

Space Weather

Flares and CMEs and Auroras, Oh My!
  • Solar Wind
    List
    The steady outflow of particles from the solar surface.
  • Sunspots
    Gallery
    Large cooler regions on the solar photosphere where magnetic flux is concentrated.
  • Solar Flares
    Gallery
    Magnetic eruptions above the solar photosphere that emit x-rays and particles.
  • Coronal Mass Ejections
    List
    Large eruptions of particles from the Sun
  • Magnetosphere
    List
    The magnetic 'bubble' surrounding Earth, and some other planets.
  • Aurora
    Gallery
    The Northern & Southern lights, created by the interaction of the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere with the atmosphere.
  • Space Weather Modeling
    Gallery

    Energetic events on the Sun can have dramatic impact on Earth and its magnetosphere. These natural events can have significant effects on Earth and space-based technologies that can cause anything from inconveniences (such as minor communications and power disruptions) to high-impact events that have significant political and economic implications (outages of large sections of the electrical power grid and other support infrastructure).

    To better meet these challenges, mathematical models of the heliospheric and geospace environment are under development to better forecast these solar energetic events and their impacts on Earth.

Solar Science

Studying the Sun itself.
  • The Dynamic Solar Magnetic Field
    2016.01.29
    While the sun is well known as the overwhelming source of visible light in our solar system, a substantial part of its influence is driven by some aspects less visible to human perception - the magnetic field.
  • The Solar Cycle
    Gallery
    Solar Cycle 25 has begun. The Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel announced solar minimum occurred in December 2019, marking the transition into a new solar cycle. In a press event, experts from the panel, NASA, and NOAA discussed the analysis and Solar Cycle 25 prediction, and how the rise to the next solar maximum and subsequent upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth.

Heliosphere

That not-so-empty space between the solar corona and the boundary of interstellar space.

Magnetospheres

The magnetic fields of small and large bodies around the solar system alter the space plasma near that body.

Ionosphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere (ITM)

Interesting physics occurs at the boundary layers between the electrically neutral atmospheres of planets and the plasma of space.

NASA Heliophysics Resources

We live in an exciting environment: the heliosphere, the exotic outer atmosphere of a star. The heliosphere is an immense magnetic bubble that extends well beyond the orbit of Pluto. This bubble contains our solar system, solar wind, and the entire solar magnetic field. The heliosphere is also the one part of the cosmos accessible to direct scientific investigation; our only hands-on astrophysical laboratory. As our society becomes ever more dependent on technology, we are increasingly susceptible to space weather disturbances in this tumultuous region. We call the study of the connections between the sun and the solar system, Heliophysics.'
  • Sounding Rockets
    Gallery
    For over 40 years, NASA's Sounding Rocket Program has provided critical scientific, technical, and educational contributions to the nation's space program and is one of the most robust, versatile, and cost-effective flight programs at NASA.
  • Mercury Transit May 2016
    Gallery
    On Monday, May 9, 2016, Mercury will transit across the sun. This rare event will begin at 7:11 AM EDT and will continue for more than seven hours. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory will watch this transit from start to finish, ultra high definition images of the event in near real time as it unfolds. This is the first time SDO has captured this transit, which hasn't occurred since 2006. It won't occur again until 2019. NASA Scientists use the transit method to learn more about planets both in our solar system and beyond. Scientists can monitor the brightness of stars, looking for dips in that brightness that signal a transiting planet. Using the transit method, scientists can determine the distance of these planets from their stars, as well as their size and composition. Upcoming missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will use the transit method to search for planets orbiting nearby stars.
  • 2012 Venus Transit
    Gallery
    This gallery contains visuals in support of the June 5, 2012 transit of Venus across the solar disk.
  • Heliophysics Fleet
    Gallery
    Orbits and trajectories of many missions observing the Sun and the near-Earth environment.
  • SDO Anniversary Series
    2017.06.02
    The sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on the entire disk of the sun, with a prime view of the graceful dance of solar material coursing through the sun's atmosphere, the corona.
  • SDO 4k Slow-rotation Sun Resource Page
    2017.06.02
    SDO, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, images the entire sun at 4096x4096 resolution in multiple wavelengths every 12 seconds. The selection below represents some of the best options for full-disk slow rotation. The 4k content is available for download as frame sequences, and, in some cases, as ProRes video. These files are large and will take a long time to download.
  • Sun News
    Gallery
    Solar flares! CMEs! The Really Big Images from Solar Dynamics Observatory! Get them here!

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